Genomics would be a major area in the 21st century and help in a big way in healthcare, the fight against COVID-19, increasing productivity and contributing to fighting challenges like climate change, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Thursday.
He said that through COVID genome sequencing, the part of the genome which is not changing frequently can be identified and it will help in vaccine development.
He noted that while Information Technology (IT) played an important role in the 1990s in strengthening the country's economy, genomics would be a major area in the 21st century and play a crucial role in the country's and societal development.
Observing that climate change is going to be a major problem in the future, he said genomics can contribute in fighting the challenges. "Along with health and treatment, it can also be used in increasing productivity," he said in a video message on the occasion of inauguration of NKC Centre for Genomics Research.
He said the NKC Centre, named after former (late) Member of Parliament from Madhya Pradesh Nand Kumar Singh Chauhan, would work in COVID genome sequencing and help towards saving people's lives.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
Singh hoped that the establishment of the Centre would reduce the country's dependence on other countries.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who inaugurated the centre virtually, said the dream of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is doubling farmers' income and it requires increase in productivity, reducing input cost and loss of crop, and making efforts to ensure that the farmers get the right price.
Agrigenomics can hep increase productivity, reduce input cost and increase resistance to disease, he said.
The NKC Centre for Genomics Research was set up by Nucleome Informatics, a leading genomics research service provider.
The laboratory will carry out the latest third-generation sequencing and play a critical role in fighting the pandemic by sequencing 5000 COVID genomes and 500 human genomes a Nucleome release said.
The lab would also play a role in upping India’s potential in agriculture, animal husbandry, and personalised / precision medicine, among others, it said.
"The laboratory is an extraordinary feat and I congratulate Nucleome for this ambitious effort even while remaining connected to the root. This is a remarkable achievement of science and technology and these problem-solving approaches should be done at scale. I am impressed with the technology put in place and will look forward to its implementation," the release quoted Principal Scientific Adviser to the Centre Prof K Vijay Raghavan as saying.
Nucleome has contributed to the fields of agrigenomics, animal husbandry and wildlife conservation since its inception, Dushyant Singh Baghel, MD and CEO, Nucleome Informatics, said in the release.
The next NKC Centre for Genomics will be set up at Indore, he said.
"With the addition of NovaSeq 6000 (the world’s largest short-read sequencing) and GeneTitan platforms, the laboratory will play a critical role in expanding the scope of our in-house services and allow seamless cross-platform services," he said.
"We will soon begin to provide our in-house DrSeq suite of predictive genomics products in healthcare to analyse the data of RNA sequencing – we expect this will improve the understanding and uptake of personalized / precision medicine in India," Baghel said.Follow our full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here.